Skip to content

Ideas Are Slippery

Ideas multiply. It’s a fact. It’s physics. Energy begets energy. Ideas beget ideas.

I get a lot of ideas when I write. The come from what I’ve written, from my research and from my characters themselves. Sometimes it is a line I write that doesn’t quite fit my current story, but that sparks a new one. Most often, though, it is an idea to fill a hole in my plot I hadn’t realized was there.

Characters are bossy like that sometimes. I find the more real they are, the more opinions they have. They insert their ideas in dialogue and action. They appear in my dreams and change my perspective of their story.

Ideas are infectious.

But be careful. Ideas are slippery things. They can get out of hand quickly.

For example, you may come up with an idea and think you know where your story is going, but then find it doesn’t. It takes a turn into uncharted territory.

It’s a little like planting a seed in your garden. You put it in the ground thinking you’ve planted a daffodil, but when it blooms it’s a rose or a daisy. Sometimes even a tree. Between the planting and the bloom, it changes form.

Ideas can shift as you plot and write, and that’s okay as long as the story still makes sense. Your story has to be logical. Rational. It has to make sense, even if it’s a fantasy.

This is what we call Story Logic. If you give a mouse a cookie, he won’t want a pencil. That doesn’t make sense. People may do illogical things, but stories must have reason and motivation. You can’t have someone cross to pick up a phone that hasn’t rung. Stories are causal. Make sure that when ideas slip they stay within the realm of plausible.

That being said, don’t lock down your ideas too much. Be flexible. Let your imagination go wild. Explore the places your ideas take you knowing that you can always fix the story logic in edits.

I am a plotter. I like to have a clear idea of where I am going when I start writing. But I also allow my plot to grow as I write. I follow tangents knowing I can always go back to the path if I end up someplace scary. My plot acts as my safety net that will keep my story on track. It allows me to let those ideas play out without losing my focus.

It’s okay to change your plot and your mind as you go. Maybe you wanted a happy ending, but found it just wasn’t in the cards. That happens. Let it. Just don’t be led too far astray while you follow those slippery paths.

The point is to get something on the page. To begin writing. To keep writing. To be willing to let new ideas take hold. Know that it is easier to fix a flawed story than it is to fix a blank page.